I'm a big fan of Michel Roux Jr and may have had a slight fangirl moment when he favourited a tweet of mine during the last series of Masterchef. He's definitely one of my food heroes and as such I'm delighted to be sharing one of a series of six short films which see the two-Michelin starred chef travel the length and breadth of the British Isles to discover the true meaning of exceptional craftsmanship. The series has been created in partnership with The Balvenie Single Malt Whisky to uncover the stories behind some of the UK's finest culinary craftspeople.
During his travels Michel meets and profiles six ‘masters of craft’ within their respective fields. A music loving salmon smoker, a potter, one of the last remaining knife makers in the UK, a sparkling wine producer, an organic food producer and The Balvenie’s very own cooper. The series culminates in a mouth-watering three-course ‘Craftsmen’s Dinner’, in which Michel uses produce from each of the craftsmen he has met on his journey. The meal celebrates the incredible craftsmanship and passion of those who dedicate the years required to mastering and perfecting their art whether that be singing to salmon to enhance their taste or learning the art of pottery in Japan.
The meat for The Craftsmens Dinner is sourced from Grierson Organic in Perthshire, Scotland. Not all that far away from me here in Aberdeenshire. Scotland is of course renowned for its quality of beef and Michel meets husband and wife team Sascha and Hugh Grierson who rear and butcher their own livestock, ultimately producing famously tender, mouth-watering meat. There's a particularly lovely moment where Michel says that happy pigs make great bacon and Sascha names the ginger piglet Michel. You can watch the full Grierson Organic video below and the rest of the series will be released over the next few months on The Craftsmens Dinner You Tube Channel so be sure to subscribe. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Michel's 'Ghost' moment when he throws a pot.
Since I started blogging in 2012 I've had the opportunity to meet and work with a number of wonderful Scottish artisan food producers. Quality and provenance of food is just as vital to me as a home cook as it is to Michel as a two star Michelin Chef. As a farmer's daughter it's always been important and natural for me to think about where my food comes from and in the case of meat and poultry what kind of life the animal led before slaughter. I've met the happy rare breed livestock on a visit to Sunnyside farm in Maryculter and tasted the high welfare pork and eggs produced there by husband and wife team Sharon and Kevin. On a visit to Fife I learned some of the secrets of artisan chocolate making from Chocolatier Sophie Latinis owner of Pittenweem Chocolate Company whilst James Robb showed me where the the smoking magic happens at East Pier Smokehouse. Like Michel I even tried my hand at butchery skills when I was kitted up in chainmail to cut my own steak under the expert guidance of Iain Matthew at Donald Russell Butchers. Sausage making is most definitely a craft in itself which I discovered when I made my own batch of sausages with Master Butcher Grant at The Store. My initial attempts were somewhat hilarious but I redeemed myself somewhat on another attempt during a visit to Royal Warrant holders and suppliers of butchery to Balmoral, HM Sheridan of Ballater.
My eyes were opened to the meaning of craft bakery on a visit to The Breadmaker in Aberdeen, an inspiring venture which combines artisan bread making and social enterprise. I've even tried my hand at making the iconic regional specialty food from here in the North East corner of Scotland. The Buttery, Rowie or Aberdeen Roll. Every dimple on the top of every one of the 150,000 Butteries produced by JG Ross Bakers each week is created by fingers and knuckles on a human hand. A wee bit further afield I fulfilled a longtime ambition to visit River Cottage HQ where as part of the day Head Gardener Will Livingstone took us on a farm and garden tour of the 90 acre certified Organic mixed farm. The common thread running through all of the above producers is the great skill, passion and pride that they take in their work. Exactly as is the case with The Balvenie whose Whisky distillation encompasses a whole range of rare crafts. Starting with home grown barley spread across a traditional malting floor (the last of its kind in the Scottish Highlands) to stills kept in peak condition made by coppersmiths and casks prepared and maintained by coopers, with the whole process being overseen by the Malt Master.
The Balvenie and Foodies100 are giving away an amazing prize in “The Balvenie Craftsmen’s Dinner Competition” which offers the winner a meal for two at Le Gavroche, Michel Roux Jr’s two Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair. You can enter the competition via the gleam widget below.
To be in with the chance of winning a meal for two at Le Gavroche, you'll need to watch the series trailer and answer the following question:
How many dishes are plated up in the kitchen during The Balvenie Craftsmen’s Dinner trailer?
(Hint: to find the answer, watch the video very carefully, and tell me how many plates of food you see that have been plated up (i.e. have had food placed on them) in the kitchen!)
How to Enter:
Watch the series trailer and leave a comment on this post with your answer.
Complete the widget with your details. Bonus entries are available
All entrants must be aged 18 and over entries close on 13th May, 2016 at 5:00pm.
Good Luck!Win a luxury dinner at Michel Roux Jr’s restaurant, Le Gavroche.
Disclosure : This is a commissioned post for Balvenie Whisky and Foodies 100. All views expressed are my own.